Fellow Since 2008
This profile was prepared when Vivienne Schultz was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
Vivienne Schultz is creating innovative programs to address the psychosocial and developmental needs of prospective entrepreneurs to ensure that they are supported by an enabling and nurturing environment. Vivienne’s innovative three-pronged approach involves trainings in microenterprise development, resources, and a physical space to enable budding entrepreneurs to launch their projects, and continued mentorship to ensure that they are successful.
The New Idea
Vivienne believes that enabling spaces and nurturing relationships are required to create a rich climate for aspiring entrepreneurs. Her work is based on the recognition, encouragement, and support of individual potential in both the medium- and long-term. In a society where many individuals barely realize their potential to be successful entrepreneurs, her programs identify driven leaders and support them as they develop, sustain, and spread the enterprises. Vivienne’s work is based on a multi-tiered approach. First she identifies potential entrepreneurs. Through a training model called Addicted to Business she is able to provoke and challenge individuals as they develop their microenterprises. Then, Vivienne creates a supportive, nurturing, and resource-rich environment she calls the E-Hub. By providing work space and administrative services, E-Hubs are supported by business partners and become incubators for small enterprises. Finally, Vivienne emphasizes the need for individual support and learning by linking emerging entrepreneurs with established entrepreneurs. These relationships have the potential to create new markets and to address the challenges faced by both emerging and established entrepreneurs. Vivienne’s creation of an enabling environment that encourages individual entrepreneurs and businesses to forge links for experiential learning is innovative and valuable, especially in a climate where a piecemeal approach (like the emphasis on acquiring a single business skill) has failed.
During the apartheid era, the educational opportunities open to most black South Africans were exceedingly limited and did little or nothing to stimulate independent or entrepreneurial thinking. The system trained young black people to be semi-skilled or unskilled laborers to serve the powerful elite. This paradigm was reinforced in the religious, social, economic, and political spheres, and it had a cumulative negative effect on the self-esteem, entrepreneurial spirit, self-worth, and confidence levels of the majority of the black community. With the advent of majority rule in 1994, the democratically elected government began aggressive educational reforms and skill-development programs. However, the government was faced with a critical shortage of skilled personnel. The response was to use funding from corporate taxes to create Skills, Education and Technical Authorities (SETAs). The SETA programs are focused on the acquisition of technical skills with no emphasis on the assessment or development of the creative, human potential of the black community. Consequently, a large number of technically trained persons are discontent and unsatisfied once in the work place. This is supported by the alarming failure rate of new microenterprise projects and the ever increasing difficulty young people have retaining jobs. This lack of innovation and motivation is one of the greatest threats to the hard won new democracy as the gap between the poor and the rich continues to widen. Further, the enabling, nurturing environment to support emerging enterprises in South Africa today is inadequate. Small businesses do not receive the necessary mentoring and learning to launch their enterprises and succeed. And resources like rental space and other material factors are generally out of reach for a microenterprise due to a lack of start-up capital. Market research and access to markets are similarly affected by unattainable capital.Additionally, new entrepreneurs find little support from the established business sector by ways of mentorship and support. Many in the business sector see their responsibility accounted for by the corporate taxation to fund the SETAs. There is therefore reluctance on the side of established business to mentor and develop relationships with emerging microenterprises. The missed opportunity for joint learning, improved access to markets and support, further exacerbates the challenges already faced by small enterprises. The short-sighted development of individual drive in South Africa has unfortunately been premised on this paradox: Though people have a mindset of scarcity, they should behave as though resources and infrastructure are aplenty with connections and partnerships readily in place to set them on the road to success. Many people have been ruined by poorly developed enterprise plans. While some have taken to crime, others have simply fallen out of the job market. Black Economic Empowerment has become a nightmare of legal jargon and bureaucratic double-talk with state-run deadlines and punishments designed to force the corporate horse to water. Vivienne is addressing the shortcomings in the sphere of job creation and the South African economy through her innovative organization.
Vivienne employs a three-pronged strategy in her efforts to economically empower marginalized entrepreneurs. Though the components of Vivienne’s plan are each distinct, they are all coordinated by the work of her South African company legally registered as Biz Africa 1399 and together produce ambitious, confident, and successful entrepreneurs. As part of the process, beneficiaries are first challenged to develop entrepreneurially and are then supported and mentored as they progress through Vivienne’s well-structured program. First, the Addicted to Business (A2B) framework and methodology recognize the various levels of individual development and provide an incentive to progressively move from one stage of development to the next. This is essentially a coaching method that uses one’s individual ability to determine entrepreneurial potential. It provokes experiential learning, encourages personal growth, and builds on experience. The framework also breeds independent and innovative character, inspires motivation, and nurtures self-worth. A2B effectively addresses the issue of the uninventive legacy of the apartheid educational system. The program tackles entrepreneurial development in a holistic way. Its methodology is based on identifying the psychosocial and developmental stages of an individual and placing the person in classroom situations that encourage movement from basic to advanced stages of personal development that will prepare previously disadvantaged people for the challenges of entrepreneurship training. The second dimension, the E-Hub, centers on the establishment of entrepreneurship hubs which are structured, industrial business and educational spaces that provide aspiring entrepreneurs a supportive work space. In addition to physical space, E-Hubs help create a virtual business environment which includes email access, websites, and technology support for those entities not able to afford them. Technology is an expensive commodity in South Africa and the lack of skills in the environment often prevents entrepreneurs from accessing information online. The E-Hub creates both a platform to access website development, explore markets that are web-based, and, because the resource is shared and available online, allow for affordable training for more budding entrepreneurs. By providing resources, retail space, administrative services, and further training spaces for entrepreneurs, E-Hubs offer tangible support at a critical time in entrepreneurs’ individual and project development. Additionally, the E-Hub experience contributes to a nurturing, enabling environment that provides a bridge to link theory and practice in terms of entrepreneurial thinking. The third dimension is the blended value partnership which allows for mentorship between established businesses and small microenterprises. This model allows for the building of bridges to create a learning environment that addresses the issue of support for microenterprise in the country. This has the potential to create new markets for both established and emerging enterprises.There are many examples of Vivienne’s work in action. For example, she worked with a group of disenfranchised young people in Rustenburg. The local mining giant, Anglo Platinum, had purchased vast tracks of mining land in the area and the previously disadvantaged young people in the area mounted a campaign demanding the mining company compensate them for the land that they claimed was tribal land. It was impossible for Anglo Platinum to start operations on the land with this issue unresolved. Vivienne approached the company with her A2B system and was contracted for a period of six months, during which she trained the youth, determined their level of development, advised on appropriate skills training packages, and linked them with established entrepreneurs who could mentor and provide support. Three businesses were founded as a result of Vivienne’s intervention. The community regarded the training and business linkages as the company’s contribution and the mining operation was allowed to continue. Businesses in SA are beginning to understand and seriously consider their role as corporate entities. Legislation governing good business practices dictates that a score card—mainly detailing amount of funds spent on CSI/CSR—is completed. A recent debate indicates that there is also more attention being paid to the quality and impact of CSI/CSR funding. Various theorists have proposed the argument that sustainable community development ventures by businesses are becoming increasingly more important as the consumer in SA is becoming more aware of brand reputation and related corporate practices. The economic system in SA is built on the basis of a free market economy and it companies are publicizing and making more of their support of community ventures than in the past. The E-Hubs present a real opportunity to allow business to support and mentor microenterprises.Vivienne’s plans for the future are far reaching and reflect her desire to grow and spread her idea and program throughout the continent. Vivienne has started the process of registering and promoting the program throughout Africa as the problem is rooted throughout the continent and has widespread ramifications. As part of her expansion plan, she established a constructive relationship with a leading continent-wide property development company, Old Mutual Properties. She intends to further develop her organization to ensure that there is capacity to expand to other parts of Africa and has developed partnerships with academic institutions to allow for active research and development on the program and its elements. Vivienne is currently writing a book on her methodology for the continental and international market; based on experiential learning.
Vivienne is a dynamic leader driven by the need to improve the lives and ensure the dignity of all people. She was born into a position of privilege and could have simply enjoyed the opportunities that would have afforded her. However, Vivienne chose to challenge the established system and all the assumptions with it; a continual theme throughout her life. Professionally, she has challenged the established practice of occupational therapy in South African hospitals. By continuing to focus on rehabilitation of the disabled after their hospitalization ended, she defied the purely clinical approach of the day. This revolutionary approach broadened her experience and exposed her to the suffering and lack of opportunity of the majority of the people in SA and shattered the illusions with which she had been raised.Her clinical knowledge and innate desire to improve the living conditions for all led to the creation of a project to address the need for entrepreneurship as a means to independence amongst the disabled. After achieving national success with the project she proceeded to adapt her model and apply it to the empowerment of black entrepreneurs, previously disadvantaged through apartheid.Vivienne is driven by her vision to create entrepreneurs to effectively address the inequities between the rich and the poor. She believes that if left unchallenged, this ever widening gap could have serious effects on democracy in the region. She advocates constructive and effective measures to challenge current thinking on the issue of microenterprise development in the country and on the continent. Vivienne has shown her unflagging enthusiasm and commitment to this process and her methodology for almost fifteen years. Throughout her various endeavors in both her personal and professional life the theme of ensuring the dignity of all human beings has been steadfastly consistent.